By Jon Wren
Upon arriving in the little Russian town of Kalinovka around the turn of the 20th century, a new priest launched a program where each week children were given a short passage of Scripture to memorize—in exchange for a piece of candy. Soon, children from all over the village and countryside came to learn from the village priest and to get their candy. And of all the children who participated, a young boy named Nikki stood out by memorizing the most passages. The village elders and the priest were confident Nikki’s impressive knowledge of Scripture would lead to great things for the church.
But over the course of his lifetime, Nikki abandoned the faith traditions of his youth, joined the Communist Party, and went on to become the leader of the Soviet Union. As premier, Nikita Khrushchev oversaw state-sponsored programs of persecution of the Christian faith and took steps to repress the church. All those passages of Scripture he had memorized years earlier had informed his mind but failed to impact his heart.
The apostle Paul was no stranger to this phenomenon. He was a Pharisee who spent much of his life in study and scholarship; therefore, he knew that while learning, education, and knowledge could be helpful to a growing faith, they weren’t enough to truly develop or sustain it. Only love could do that. Paul wrote, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
We have an opportunity to remember the truth of Paul’s words as we participate in Communion. The bread and the cup remind us of Christ’s love for us and the sacrifice he made because of it. It’s not something we need to memorize, recite, or explain—it’s an experience during which we can reflect on God’s love that builds us up and encourages us to trust him more. This week, let’s celebrate and remember that only through Christ’s love can we grow to become more like him.
Jon Wren works with the Office of Civil Rights, addressing the impact of gentrification on school desegregation. He loves history, college football, and once got a ticket for driving too slowly.